Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Court Rejects State's Voting Map Justices Consider Legislative Plan 'Contrary to Law'

Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Court Rejects State's Voting Map Justices Consider Legislative Plan 'Contrary to Law'

Article excerpt

HARRISBURG -- The state Supreme Court did something Wednesday it hasn't done in the last 40 years: It sent the newly drawn maps of state House and Senate districts back to a reapportionment panel for more work so the districts will conform to state law.

Several Democratic lawmakers and citizens had filed challenges in response to the new maps.

"This court finds that the final 2011 Legislative Reapportionment Plan is contrary to law," the seven-member court said, in a 4-3 decision. "The plan is remanded to the commission with a directive to reapportion the commonwealth in a manner consistent with the court's opinion, which will follow."

One Republican, Chief Justice Ronald Castille of Philadelphia, joined the three Democratic justices on the court for the opinion. Three other GOP justices dissented.

In its ruling Wednesday, the high court didn't detail its specific problems with the new redistricting maps. Its reasons could be along the lines of complaints of 11 challenges to the maps that were heard in open court Monday.

"This decision today is of historic proportion. I'm very pleased," a victorious state Sen. Jay Costa, D-Forest Hills, said Wednesday night. He was the only one of the five members of the reapportionment panel who voted against the new maps when the panel approved them in a 4-1 vote in December.

He, along with the other 19 Democratic senators, filed one of the 11 challenges to the maps. "We faced long odds, but the court had serious concerns about the plan," he said.

He noted that Chief Justice Castille had voiced concerns during a hearing Monday about how the new districts were put together.

"On appeal, we argued that there is a better way, and I'm glad to see the court agreed," Mr. Costa said.

Senate Republican leader Dominic Pileggi, R-Delaware County, another member of the commission, said the court decision puts officials in "uncharted territory."

If the court's problem is a narrow issue, he said, it might be readjusted in a matter of days. But a more comprehensive problem could take much longer. He hopes the court will detail its ruling this week and the commission would meet next week. …

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